An article by Shilpa Nadkarni
This is the story from the time when our parents never knew where we were, unless we showed up at breakfast, lunch and dinner time during summers. Life was full of fun, energy and enthusiasm..
We were free birds, with freedom of choosing any kid in the park as a random friend, no one to judge or scrutinize our decisions. Being friends with a specified class, income group, status symbol, etc were not a part of parenting then. I must rather say, any or every kid around was a friend. We never took playtime appointments from friends or their families. Instead, we had a unique style of calling a friend by standing below the friend’s house, facing towards the sky, with a pout and both palms covering the mouth from sides (this one to give a special echo effect) and make a weird sound something like taaaauuuk, taaaauuuk…and your friends head pops up from the balcony to acknowledge.
Relishing available snacks and juices at neighbour’s home, friend’s home was a routine. None of the mommies thought it necessary to know what her child ate or drank at anyone’s home – whether it was healthy or junk or never did they inquire in which oil the item was cooked.
We never had knee pads and helmets while riding cycles or playing in the park. Our toys included games like phones made out of empty match boxes by tying them up with thread, marbles, Gilli danda and lagori. We were privileged to have limited quality screen time with special programs rather big affairs on weekends called ‘Ramayan’, ‘Mahabharat’, ‘Chitrahaar’, ‘Chayageet’, ‘He Man’ . I must mention having a television set at home was luxury then, only one or two families in a 2/3 storey building used to have it, which means the entire building gathers in the house which has TV, to make big affairs a grand success by having a joint breakfast, sometimes followed by a potluck and pot ice-creams as well. Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana was a big hit those days. On Sundays, when the Ramayana episodes used to be aired, the streets looked curfewed, shops shut, no one working at all, not even mommies in kitchen, with a pin drop silence.
Our school days meant only fun, stress-free childhood days. The vacations were meant for enjoyment with minimal homework of at the most, one page of copywriting daily and byhearting (common term used then for mugging up) tables after the evening prayers was a routine in any given house around. Vacation also meant visiting the most awaited through the year, trip to Nana, Nani’s house.
Today, I feel, we our more educated than earlier generations, with higher incomes, more exposure and knowledge. Now, we accurately know how to inculcate good habits, behavioural skills in our kids, we know what’s best for our kids to eat or drink at what time, which coaching classes they should attend to develop their skill sets music, singing, dance, basketball, football, table tennis, art and craft to name a few.
I realized that kids now are growing into highly protective, safe and comfortable environment. Most of us have single child, which means, giving the best of resources to the only child in nuclear setup, with full attention and no lagging behind. Many facilities, toys, clothes, etc are provided even before it is required or asked for, by the kid. Legos and Barbie’s reside in almost every home. Food with right number of calories including required vitamins, proteins, carbs and fats is specially cooked for the kid in family. We have beautifully designed kids rooms, kids bed, chair, wardrobe and every single thing designed and crafted for our kid.
We are also helping our kids in choosing their friends, choosing the games they should play, choosing the food they should eat, choosing the classes they should attend and a lot more.. lacking to understand that we are snatching away their decision-making powers, their abilities to share and care, to mingle happily with people around, they live in a positive cocoon where there is no room for ‘NO’, Failures, Getting Hurt, No scope to develop Physical and Mental Immunity. They are used to every instant, ready made thing, with virtual fantasy world. Thanks to burgers, pizzas, pastas. We were lucky enough to have a Zomato/swiggy free childhood. Whenever I see around, I can see 80% kids turning into couch potatoes, most of them have not shedded baby fat till the age of 10-12 years, have chubby cheeks and bellies are pretty common and kids are on the verge of getting obese. I call this a overdose of love, care and attention.
Infact, they are loosing the capability of making their own decisions, they don’t know how to resolve their fights with kids around. They are so pampered, that I often see kids going to friends place not to play, but to complain about him/her to his/her parents, because he/she is not listening or following the former kid.
Nowadays, we come across several teenager suicide cases or kids lost and found cases. It is the competition to blame for or the rat race which begins right at home as early as from age of 3? Every mommy-daddy wants their child to be a super human – excellent in academics, drama, sports, art, music, aerobics, karate. In the bargain, our kids start attending series of classes other than school hours, no time for free play, to fill the gaps we always have gadgets as backup, iPads, handphones and TVs 24/7 to justify our behaviour as a parent and to bargain on time with kids. We bribe kids by giving them gadgets to play with, while we are busy with something else or to compensate their free play time, which is super occupied by these extra classes.
At times, I wonder, who’s more smarter WE or our earlier generations?
Author Shilpa Nadkarni